CATTARAUGUS - During their regular February meeting, the Cattaraugus Village Board took action to encourage more timely payments by chronically delinquent water customers. During an often frustrating discussion of the subject, it was noted that some customers have pretty much stopped paying their village water/sewer bills, allowing (and sometimes, even requesting) them to be added to their annual county taxes instead.
That seemingly harmless practice poses a big problem to the board. Even though much of the water bill money eventually makes its way back to the village, there is often an interim period during which the village is deprived of revenue for which it planned and budgeted. This adds considerable uncertainty to the budgeting process. Like most communities, Cattaraugus operates without a huge cash cushion, so any loss of expected revenues can mean the village lacks the wherewithal to pay day-to-day operating expenses.
Clerk Rose LaQuay also brought up the fact that many residents have adopted the habit of paying only as much of their bill as will keep their water from being shut off. As a result, they are never actually current with their billing cycles. A consensus was reached that the board has been too lax in enforcing its own water law.
As a result, a two-part resolution was passed. First, the superintendent was authorized to immediately terminate service to those accounts on the February shut-off list from whom no communication had been received. Second, a thirty-day extension was granted to a few customers from whom the clerk's office had received a reasonable request for extension. In either case, accounts were declared due in full by March 8, or shutoff would be executed.
"Water's a vital utility," commented Superintendent of Public Works Jason Opferbeck, "but some people don't treat it like that." Opferbeck is all too aware how large a share of his overall budget goes into operating the village's reservoir, sewer plant, and the various springs, wells, and pumps that keep residents supplied with fresh water and sewer service.
Clerk LaQuay reported that while she had collected receipts of $12,578.02 for the last billing period, an additional $5,882.52 remained outstanding. Treasurer Gene Doucette also spoke up, warning the board that water/sewer revenues were running below expectations this year. With annual budget planning sessions starting Feb. 22, all such considerations are currently uppermost in board members' minds.
As Superintendent Opferbeck gave his monthly report, the value of regular, uninterrupted water revenues became even more apparent. The super told the board that he recently obtained a needed new $1,500 valve for Cobo Well. This valve will turn the well flow on and off much less abruptly, thereby avoiding the hammering and turbulence presently experienced when the well is activated. He wants to get a similar valve for the Blackmar Well, as well as a $4,000 drive that will help operate it. Next year, he'd wants to budget another such drive for the sewer pump.
Opferbeck also reminded the board that it was time to "rotate out" the village's 550 plow truck. However, he said that due to newly established emissions standards, the price of a replacement would be approximately $20,000 higher than originally estimated.
The public works department also dealt with a plugged sewer line along Rte. 353 on the north end of the village. In addition, they had to fix a water main line break on Leavenworth Street.
Kevin and Sandy Roeske appeared before the board to call attention to the repeated problems they have experienced with basement flooding at their home at 84 South St. They said they lived at that address for ten years without a problem, but have experienced three serious episodes within the past year, due, they believe to a plugged, abandoned line running under their house.
Mrs. Roeske said that the new furnace they installed last August was ruined, along with a new dehumidifier. "One, or two, or even three inches, we could deal with," she continued, "but we've had over two feet three times this past year." She said that the new sump pump they installed couldn't keep up with a recent January flood, possibly caused when the firemen unstopped three ponds located further down the street.
Superintendent Opferbeck said he had discussed the matter with former Superintendent Dennis Huber. Huber said he thinks the line might have been run by the Liberty Park Cemetery Association, possibly around 1948, to drain water from the cemetery property. However, no maps or records of this have been found to date. The super said he hoped to "scope" the line next summer in an effort to determine its condition and direction. Persons who know any facts pertaining to this pipeline are encouraged to share their information with the village.
Meanwhile, the Roeskes said they hired someone to cement shut the three cellar floor openings through which the water entered, as recommended by Opferbeck during a previous conversation. Mrs. Roeske, however, said she was worried that this action could result in the "backed-up water" coming out elsewhere along the line, or even through their own cellar walls. They asked if they might return next month to see how the board was addressing the issue, and were urged to do so. Trustee McGlew thanked them for their patience and for what he called their "calm and measured response to a large problem.
In other business Mrs. Gayle Patterson, Site Manager of the South Street Senior Center, thanked the board for the purchase and installation of new carpeting in that building. She went on to request permission to buy an entry mat and also runners to place under the tables so that the new carpeting would be protected from the salt, snow and water that's tracked in. She also reported that the air conditioner was recently struck by by falling ice, adding if it turned out to be non-functional, she thought that a simple pedestal fan paired with one already on the premises, might serve the purpose just as well. The board approved her requests and instructed her to proceed as she saw fit.